Power cut-off crisis for Emfuleni apparently averted

Emfuleni's Executive Mayor Simon Mofokeng.

 

Craig Kotze

Eskom’s threatened electricity cut-off to Emfuleni has been averted in the nick of time by the direct facilitation and action of Executive Mayor Simon Mofokeng, an ELM spokesperson confirmed.

“Due to the direct intervention of Mayor Mofokeng and his facilitation with Eskom, there will be no electricity cut-off by Eskom on October 3,” said mayoral spokesperson Lebo Mofokeng.

At time of printing, it was not yet clear whether a final deal with Eskom had been formally signed, but Vaalweekblad learnt that Eskom had formally communicated to Emfuleni Local Municipality (ELM) that the planned interruption of bulk power supply had been suspended.

Had this agreement not been reached, this week would have been a crisis period for ELM – it must, according to sources, pay more than R500 million to settle half of its outstanding debt to both Eskom and Rand Water by Friday.

On top of that it must also have settled its current account with these two entities to get a deal with Eskom to prevent a power supply cut-off on October 3.

But Mayor Mofokeng and a special negotiating team are said to have been working full-out to settle the matter this week – in addition to waiting for the appointment of a new municipal manager and chief financial officer by Gauteng before month-end.

ELM reportedly owes Eskom more than R700 million and Rand Water around R320 million. Any repayment deal would require a 50 per cent payment on both amounts, the settling of current accounts and a 24-month repayment plan.

The negotiations took place against the backdrop of residents owing ELM at least R3.9 billion in bills not paid, with about R30 million extra debt every month from non-paying Emfuleni residents.The bypassing or bridging of traditional pre-paid electricity meters has also emerged as a major drain on ELM finances, which buys the electricity used by residents from Eskom but then is not paid back by residents.

Informed sources have placed the blame for the present financial crisis squarely at the door of residents who either steal power or do not pay their bills.

“It is ultimately a revenue generation crisis – if residents either steal electricity or do not pay their bills then ELM must still foot the bills to keep both water and electricity supply open,” a source told Vaalweekblad.

Bridging or bypassing traditional pre-paid meters has resulted in Mayor Mofokeng issuing instructions that all such cases be criminally charged and that the new smart meter programme be expanded and accelerated throughout Emfuleni.

 

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